The $3.2 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency is facing significant cuts in its funding as the new Tony Abbott government continues to cut a swathe through climate change and clean energy policies and initiatives, and their associated institutions.
There is growing speculation in renewable energy circles that the cuts to ARENA to be announced next week could be much higher than previously feared.
There had already been a cloud over funding for ARENA – which was created last year with a budget of $3.2 billion to be invested in emerging renewable and other enabling technologies over the coming decade.
Cuts and deferrals announced by Labor – which effectively cut the budget to $3 billion – were not actually put in place, and there was considerable confusion about the Abbott government’s apparent appropriation of ARENA funding for a cut-down version of its million solar roofs program.
It appears now that ARENA’s ability to address its core programs, including the funding of larger projects that could deploy emerging renewable or enabling technologies, may also be curtailed.
For many involved in the renewables industry, this would simply add to the miserable dynamics for an industry that is facing the removal of one market signal, the carbon price, and the effective stranding of another because of the upcoming review of the renewable energy target. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a smaller version of successful bodies deployed in Germany, the US, the UK and other countries, also faces closure.
Next week, the Abbott government will introduce legislation to the new parliament to rescind the carbon price, and dismantle the Climate Change Authority. Legislation for the closure of the CEFC is likely to follow soon afterwards. The Climate Commission has already been shut.
It almost looks like a systemic attack on the mechanisms that could usher in low-carbon investments: market signals are removed, along with the institutions that could provide finance, and the bodies that can provide advice on the policies and the science that underpin those mechanisms.
To cap things off the government’s cut-down on the public service will result in the number of scientists and researchers at the CSIRO, the country’s premier science institution, falling by a one-quarter. Some of the CSIRO’s major research projects could be paralysed.
Meanwhile, the government has given approval to the first of several “mega” coal mines planned for the Galilee Basin, and the Queensland conservative government has reportedly offered tax breaks to help improve the financials of the projects.
The government appears to have dismissed the CCA’s call for higher emissions reduction targets and consideration of a carbon budget.
Tony Abbott has attacked the head of the UN climate body, Christiana Figueres, over her linking of climate change with the propensity for more intense bush fires, and his inner circle of advisors and mentors, including Maurice Newman, David Murray, Hugh Morgan and John Howard, have intensified their attack on climate science and climate scientists. In the latest move, the government has also snubbed the international climate change talks to begin in Poland next week – deciding to send no minister and a much reduced delegation.